The Dublin firm aiming to solve a problem more lethal than breast and colon cancer

Firm that can make clinical diagnoses faster has raised €7.4 million to date and plans to scale up production of infection testing platform for worldwide use

Elaine Spain and Keith O’Neill. Picture: Fergal Philips

Based in Dublin City University, Novus Diagnostics is a business that has developed a platform to help make diagnoses faster. Originally founded as Septec by Kellie Adamson and Elaine Spain in 2020, the business currently has 13 staff.

“There are 50 million incidences every year worldwide where an infection that may only need an antibiotic becomes a more serious infection. The problem is that in the early stage, when those more severe infections could be easily treated, they are hard to detect,” Keith O’Neill, chief executive at Novus Diagnostics, told the Business Post.

“Ultimately, that kills 11 million people annually. That’s more than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined. The standard technology is over 100 years old and quite slow. We’ve developed a new kind of test that can confirm an infection and what type of organism it is within 15 minutes.”

The idea grew out of research by Adamson and Spain which focused on sepsis, and which used sensor-based technology. It was inspired by Spain’s grandfather, who had died from sepsis.

“The technology detects rare cells in a complex biological background with exquisite sensitivity. It’s a platform technology, we can do a lot more with it, but sepsis is where the most urgent medical need is,” O’Neill said. “Septec was essentially a project name around that application, but the nature of the platform means we are looking at other applications beyond sepsis.”

Between grants and funding, the business has raised €7.4 million to date. The European Innovation Bank, Enterprise Ireland and private investors supported a €5 million round that closed last month which was preceded by a €2.4 million grant from the European Innovation Council.

“The support from Enterprise Ireland has been fantastic throughout the company’s history. It funded the bulk of the initial research, alongside Science Foundation Ireland. Their early commitment to invest in equity also helped when we went to the private sector for support and we’re currently in the high potential start-up unit,” O’Neill said.

“We’re ready to kick on now and do clinical validation of the platform. We need to transition the product from what was developed in a lab to something that can be mass manufactured at scale.”

The business has been working with the intensive care unit in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for the last 12 months testing the platform.

“The next 12 months is about getting the final product into clinics. We’re planning a much larger pivotal study at the end of 2023. That will involve about 1,000 patients, compared to 100 in the current study,” O’Neill said. “The next year is about getting the development done so we can go back to clinics and validate that it works. We can bring it on to the regulators from there.”

O’Neill said the international sales potential of the platform developed by Novus was substantial.

“The potential is extraordinary. Sepsis is a global problem and the anticipated market for diagnostics there is €1.2 billion by 2028. There’s a major unmet need. We’ll launch first in the US, but it has enormous potential in lower-resourced healthcare services as well,” he said.

“The product can be made portable and brought to the point of need. The potential is global. We’ll start in the US and then Europe, but we hope to expand quickly from there.”


This Making It Work Article was produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland